Rafael Benitez has admitted an FA Cup replay was almost the last thing he wanted after seeing Newcastle hit back late to deny Sky Bet Championship Blackburn a third round victory.
Matt Ritchie’s 85th-minute penalty spared the Premier League side’s blushes with a 1-1 draw after Bradley Dack had headed the visitors in front at St James’ Park, although another game was not on Benitez’s wish-list as he attempts to keep the club in the top flight.
Asked if a replay was the worst possible scenario, he replied: “Yes, in terms of another game, another situation that you have to manage with more minutes, more players, more risk.
“I am not happy with another game – I would prefer to win this game and that’s it. But if you cannot, at least you have another chance and then try to win the next one.”
Benitez saw a team featuring eight changes to the one which started against Manchester United in midweek turn a disjointed display as it attempted to avoid a seventh third round exit since controversial owner Mike Ashley took over almost 12 years ago.
On a day when takeover speculation and the prospect of another frustrating transfer window were among the main talking points, they rescued themselves in the nick of time to leave their manager at least able to take some positives.
Benitez said: “Some young players playing, some players who have not been playing having 90 minutes under their belts, the reaction of the team after we conceded and (Florian) Lejeune coming back after four and a half months with a serious injury.
“Those are positives.”
If Benitez’s relief at avoiding a ninth defeat in 12 home games this season was tempered by the prospect of a replay a matter of days before a crunch league clash with fellow strugglers Cardiff on Tyneside, opposite number Tony Mowbray headed back to Lancashire wondering what might have been.
He said: “The dressing room is very quiet, very disappointed. We couldn’t really see Newcastle scoring tonight, to be honest and yet maybe fatigue, I’m not sure, but a soft penalty – I haven’t seen it back but VAR, obviously, confirmed it as a penalty, so we’ll accept it.
“It’s just disappointing. The team that you saw tonight is the team that’s just coming off the back of playing the top four in the Championship back-to-back – Norwich, Leeds, Sheffield United and West Brom – and that’s the sort of performance-level we’ve given, really hard-working, honest.
“We obviously could do with a bit more quality as we move the club forward if we’re going to try to get out of this division, of course. The Championship, there are some massive clubs in there.
“But we have got a great spirit and togetherness and camaraderie and it takes us a long way, and I thought that was evident today.”